I'm heading home after a week of being away. As always I have a bag of little bars of soap and little shampoo bottles in my bag. I can't help it. It's one of my routines of being on the road.
When Kim is with me she just shakes her head. If we're in a hotel for a few days, then the second day the staff will often put new bottles of shampoo and new bars of soap in case I use up the first batch midway through my shower on the second day. I put these new bottles and bars in my suitcase and use the first day's offerings. Sure enough, on the third day we are rewarded with new supplies.
I bring my mini toiletries home and put them with my supply of soap and shampoo from other trips. I'm not a collector. I actually use them. Kim is more particular about the shampoo she uses and shakes her head at the latest little bottle that I have at the side of the tub to use over the next couple of days.
When I came home from a conference held at Disneyland, I brought the girls the Mickey Mouse soap from the bathrooms there. Mickey's smiling face was on the outside wrapper. Once you opened the wrapper there was nothing special about the soap. No Mickey shaped soap. No Mickey outline stamped on the surface of the soap. Just soap.
It never became a big thing with the girls. No squeals of "Daddy, what soap did you bring us this time." I think that would have cured me of my soap hoarding habit.
It's been a weird week away. This is my first trip to O'Reilly's home office in Sebastopol since Elena died. A co-worker gave me a huge hug when I walked in and then sat ten feet from me and sent me an email apologizing for not having the words to say. It's still ok not to know what to say. The hug communicates plenty.
It's very weird being on the road. It's as if I'm in this world where Elena isn't dead. Of course I know she is, but it doesn't confront me every day. I'm in hotel rooms that she never visited spending my days with people she never knew. Sure, many of my conversations with people are about how Kim and Maggie and I are doing – but it's not the same.
Each morning I've gotten up early to talk to Kim. This morning Maggie popped up in IM to talk about some movie she's seen the trailer for. I say "It looks just stupid enough that it will be a huge hit."
She writes back "Yah! Like Sponge Bob the Movie!" I love being able to talk to her like a person.
Maggie has been at her grandparents much of the week. There's something about connecting with her this morning that brings back Elena's absence. Elena would sit on the desktop, cross-legged, and watch Maggie while she sends instant messages. She would giggle at her sister and suggest things to write but she'd never take control of the keyboard herself. Elena would call me up and talk until she got bored. Then she's say "buh-bye" and hang up.
I pack my suitcase. I pack the computer last so that I can continue to chat with Maggie. I throw the last of the little soaps in my bag, say good bye, and head for home.